Eastern (Hindu / Buddhist) Philosophies

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Eastern (Hindu / Buddhist) Philosophies

Postby Og3 » Thu Nov 12, 2015 2:52 pm

I propose here that we discuss Eastern Religions, by which I mean Hinduism and Buddhism, without reference to the truth-values of these beliefs. The goal here is strictly to explore the beliefs themselves -- what practitioners of these religions hold to be true -- and not to question whether the religions are or are not true.

This stems from a discussion that Sayak and I were having in another thread. Relevant information from that thread follows:
More clarification:-
1) Theistic Hinduism does not say that God himself doesn't reach out and saves his devotees through grace. He most emphatically does (and explicitly does not care what name he/she/it is called by) for his devotees.

Theistic Hinduism?

I have never heard of this. It was my understanding that the "God" of Hinduism was the universe itself, and that the karmic cycles were the process of the reunification of that God/Universe through Erada Sansara. It was also my understanding that while the God/Universe might be perceived through the avatars of Brahma, Siva, or Vishnu, that these were merely representations intended to convey the deeper concepts, and did not reflect an actual personality per se.

Please explain more about "Theistic Hinduism."

In Hinduism , the ground of ultimate reality/being, called Brahman is conceived as having both personality traits (an immanent and transcendent personal God) and not having any personality traits (transcendent impersonal ground of Being). Since Indian scripture emphasize both the personal Brahman and the impersonal Brahman, both are considered equally true with Brahman having a kind of "depth" that is able to subsume both these apparently contradictory features (the six blind men and the elephant simile is used liberally here). The monistic traditions emphasize the transpersonal aspect of Brahman (and consider it more important) while the theistic traditions emphasize the personal aspect of Brahman. Both groups are equally influential, but most lay followers of both groups engage in devotional theism in practice. Gita walks a 50-50 tight rope between the impersonal and the personal forms of Brahman and is therefore perhaps the only scripture that is accorded equal importance in all traditions.

Hinduism does not consider the material universe to be God, and so a Spinozan kind of God is not conceived in India. What is said, that anything that exists has a core essence that makes it possible of that thing to exist in the first place. This "existence-making property" of all things, including the "Self" of a human person is considered a part of Brahman. The plethora of universes are conceived of as like foam bubbles that exist for a time and then disappear on the surface of the ocean.

However Hinduism says that salvation by grace is not the only method, it exists along with three other methods. Salvation through correct perception, Salvation through selfless work, Salvation through meditative insight. All four ways are, by themselves, sufficient if followed through, and can be combined in any manner that a person may like in accordance with what comes most easily to him/her.

Would this be seen by Theistic Hindus as a shortened form of the eight-fold path?

Not quite, as in Buddhism there is a single path which requires eight kinds of practices to master successfully (or 6 perfections as in Mahayana). Here the four methods are seperate paths in and of themselves and each will have its own various stages of practice.

Also, what distinguishes "Correct Perception" from "Meditative Insight?"

Correct perception implies focused philosophical analysis of the nature of reality. Something like what Socrates, Plato and Aristotle would do. Therefore analysis the nature of the world and the human condition using philosophical disciplines (metaphysics, epistemology, linguistics) is considered a path to liberation in its own right. Reason, Love, Meditation, Action - the four are considered equally important paths in Hindu practice.
Bodhisatvas would be, then, an ascended master, who has achieved nirvana/nibbana? One might perhaps relate this to the avatars who appeared to Khrshna as his chariot-drivers, during his pre-ascended state?

Yes Bodhisatvas are ascended persons who have chosen to stay behind for while to help other people gain nibbana.
You have got the story of Krshna wrong somehow. There is no pre-ascended state for Krishna, he is considered by his devotees to be the personal aspect of Brahman (i.e. God) who incarnated as a human on earth to protect the cosmic order from being overthrown by an increasing prevalence of evil.

If you are interested in a conversation about Indian and Buddhist theology and philosophy further, probably we should switch to another thread as this is a bit of a digression from the OP. At least such a discussion will aid you to structure your critique of Eastern philosophies better. :D
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Re: Eastern (Hindu / Buddhist) Philosophies

Postby sayak » Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:23 pm

Cool. Further questions and/or responses/clarifications?
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Re: Eastern (Hindu / Buddhist) Philosophies

Postby Og3 » Thu Nov 12, 2015 7:06 pm

sayak wrote:Cool. Further questions and/or responses/clarifications?

Yes.

I'm going to have to admit that the one time I looked through the Bhagavad-Gita, I was under very close time constraints, and so I looked at the captioned pictures more than anything else. Stop laughing, at least I'm admitting it. :smt005

One of the pictures illustrated two men in a chariot, carrying on a conversation, while one of them shot arrows (clearly a battle scene). My memory suggests to me -- this was long ago and far away -- that the caption identified one of the men as Krshna, and stated that a large portion of the Gita recounted his conversations with an ascended master disguised as a chariot driver (though I may have the roles reversed; perhaps it was Krshna who disguised himself as a chariot driver and conversed with a general of some sort).

In order to clarify my obvious misunderstanding of the story of Krshna, do you suppose that you might summarize it in a few paragraphs?
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Re: Eastern (Hindu / Buddhist) Philosophies

Postby sayak » Thu Nov 12, 2015 7:36 pm

Og3 wrote:
sayak wrote:Cool. Further questions and/or responses/clarifications?

Yes.

I'm going to have to admit that the one time I looked through the Bhagavad-Gita, I was under very close time constraints, and so I looked at the captioned pictures more than anything else. Stop laughing, at least I'm admitting it. :smt005

One of the pictures illustrated two men in a chariot, carrying on a conversation, while one of them shot arrows (clearly a battle scene). My memory suggests to me -- this was long ago and far away -- that the caption identified one of the men as Krshna, and stated that a large portion of the Gita recounted his conversations with an ascended master disguised as a chariot driver (though I may have the roles reversed; perhaps it was Krshna who disguised himself as a chariot driver and conversed with a general of some sort).

In order to clarify my obvious misunderstanding of the story of Krshna, do you suppose that you might summarize it in a few paragraphs?


Krishna drove the chariot. His conversation partner is Arjuna who is the warrior in the chariot. The Gita records the "supposed" conversation these two had at the beginning moment of a great battle that took place between two contending Kings for the overlordship of India. Think of the war of Troy with Achilles and Odysseus having a conversation at the eve of the conflict regarding ethics of war and what it means to lead an ethical and spiritual life. Arjuna is the supreme commanding general of one of the (the "good") side in the battle and Krishna is the chief strategist who guides the army to eventual victory. The war is the final confrontation between good and evil that marks the transition between the 3rd and 4th age of creation (think Lord of the Rings war with Sauron with Krishna being Gandalf and Arjuna as Aragorn :) ) when the ethical system and the certainties of the older era is crumbling away and almost a postmodernist uncertainty about the meaning and purpose of life paralyzes the few good people still left on earth. In this context Brahman supposedly incarnates himself as Krishna and propounds a new and reformulated system of ethics and spirituality to guide people for the future era. From a historical standpoint, the epic story marks the crystallization of a deep Socrates like rethinking of ethics and religiosity that occurred between 800 BCE to 200 BCE in India as the older tribal principalities gave way to an urban high-culture civilization in what is called the "2nd urbanization period" in Indian history. It is simply called Mahabharata or "the Great Indian epic" and Gita is a small small part of it. :D
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Re: Eastern (Hindu / Buddhist) Philosophies

Postby Particles » Thu Nov 12, 2015 8:05 pm

Who would win a fight, Arjuna or Hanuman?
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Re: Eastern (Hindu / Buddhist) Philosophies

Postby sayak » Thu Nov 12, 2015 8:13 pm

Particles wrote:Who would win a fight, Arjuna or Hanuman?

LOL. Hanuman is not featured in this epic. :P
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Re: Eastern (Hindu / Buddhist) Philosophies

Postby Og3 » Thu Nov 12, 2015 10:32 pm

Thank you, I see that my memory is not as bad as I had feared, but still lost much of the plot.

I have heard it said... and this is surely demeaning and patronizing, for which I apologize in advance... that the Gita is like a "New Testament" for Hindu beliefs, as the Upanishads would be the "Old Testament" of Hinduism. And then there are the vedas, which are older still. Further, it is my understanding that these grow larger by orders of magnitude: The Gita a large book; the Upanishads a massive number of volumes, and the Vedas an entire library. I'm sure that some hyperbole is involved in this...

But would you comment on the relative roles and relative contents of the three sets of scriptures? Would a Hindu seeking guidance or enlightenment turn to any one of the three, or would these be merely material for scholars and priests? Are the three sets internally consistent?
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Re: Eastern (Hindu / Buddhist) Philosophies

Postby sayak » Fri Nov 13, 2015 2:06 am

If you consider all texts that are considered by some Indian or the other as canon, then the number and quantity is truly huge. All practicing Hindus would therefore be a part of some specialist sect or the other within Hinduism. Still some texts are consider important by all groups and a few others can be included because of their overall influence.


1) Rig Veda Samhita. Hymns of invocation and praise to older polytheistic deities of India. 1028 hymns containing 10,600 verses composed between 1600-1200 BCE. Worship centers around an extremely structured ceremony centered around a sacred fire in which sacrificial butter, food and other objects are burnt as libation to the deities. There are 3 other veda samhita...one setting the hymns in song, one explaining the various types of fire ceremonies in more detail using prose and the last containing minor chants and magic spells.
2) Associated with the four Vedic texts are large commentary literature expounding the rituals and the mythological significance of the rituals associated with the Vedic fire ceremonies. Life rituals like marraige, birth etc. are also included here. A lot of mythical stories popularized by later writers are sourced from here. These books are called Brahmanas and Aranyakas. Composed between 1300-700 BCE, there are 50-60 of these books.
3) Upanisads:- One of the most important strata of Vedic texts concentrating on meditative spirituality and philosophy. Composed over a period of 800 BCE to 200 BCE there are 13 major upanisads that decisively move away from the polytheism of the early Vedas to a monistic or monotheistic theology.
4)Mahabharata:- The great Indian epic containing every myth, theology, philosophy and ethical thinking that went on in the Hindu tradition between 600 BCE-200 CE. It is the longest poem ever written containing 200,000 verses in its final form and continues to be the most widely known and popular literature in South Asia (with Buddhist and Jaina versions as well).
5) Gita:- Existing as a part of the Mahabharata it is a 700 verse philosophical and theological composition uniting the monotheistic and monistic strands of Hindu theology and is the most widely known of Indian religious literature. Composed around 300-200 BCE.
6) Ramayana:- The second most popular epic poetry containing 24000 verses most of which actually composed by a single author (Valmiki) at around 400 BCE. Though originally a heroic romance-adventure tale with no religious connotation, the book gains massive popularity and soon the main hero and his wife becomes God and Goddess incarnations and the epic was entirely rewritten several times in the medieval period to accomodate a more devotional interpretation of the story. The original still survives though.
6) Other important texts:-
a) Samkhya Karika - a summary of the Samkhya philosophical school of dualistic but atheistic metaphysics. An early school of Hindu philosophy with a large influence in later traditions.
b) Yoga Sutra (400 CE):- the summary compilation of the philosophy and practice of Yoga and the foundation source of all later Yoga practices prevalent in India.
c) Brahma Sutra :- A summary compilation of monistic philosophy based on upanisad and Gita. Foundation text for later monistic Vedanta school
d) Vaishesika Sutra:- A summary compilation of another influential branch of Indian metaphysics famous for analyzing the world as being made of atoms. The atomic theory gains near universal acceptance among Hindu, Jain and Buddhist schools from 100 BCE onwards though remnants of the older Samkhya metaphysics is preserved in the more mystical Yoga tradition.
e) Nyaya:- The most influential branch of Hindu philosophy. It adopts the atomist metaphysics of Vaishesika and adds rigorous epistemology and logic to become a unified philosophical system. A more of less agnostic school (containing people who were atheists, monotheists or mystics) Nyaya became synonymous to the practice analytical philosophy and logic with a commitment to realism of the world and retained influence from 100 CE to 1900 CE. Most modern Indian philosophers belong to the Nyaya tradition and it is therefore still chugging along quite well. The Nyaya-Buddhist debate produces the most innovative philosophical thought in India between 200 CE-1200 CE. The most prominent philosophers of India :- Gautama, Vatsayana, Udyokara, Vacaspati Misra, Udayana, Gangesa, Raghunatha etc. were in this school.
f) Mimamsa:- the specialized school of Vedic hermeneutics which later branched out to included linguistics, philology and the philosophy of language. Language studies begin with Panini and Patanjali who in 4th century BCE standardize Sanskrit and write the first known books on grammar, linguistics and semantics. The work on the philosophy of language is continued with the metaphysical belief that spiritual power is manifested in the spoken verse and analysis of words and their sounds lead to liberation. Kumarila Bhatta and Mandana Misra are later exponents of this school
g) Advaita Vedanta:- A direct descendant of the monistic worldview of the Upanisads, this school of theology gains unprecedented influence from 800 CE onwards by the brilliant exposition of Shankara, the most celebrated theologian of Hinduism.
h) Vishita Advaita Vedanta:- The qualified non-dualist school based primarily on the exposition of Krishna in the Gita. Ramanuja (1100 CE) is the most famous theologian of this school.
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Re: Eastern (Hindu / Buddhist) Philosophies

Postby Og3 » Fri Nov 13, 2015 1:05 pm

I'm going to suppose, then, that most Hindus select a certain favorite portion of portions from which they draw their faith and practice; that is, that Hinduism is a "Big Tent" kind of religion.

Also, I have heard of a teaching called "Khrshna Consciousness." Would you expound on that point?
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Re: Eastern (Hindu / Buddhist) Philosophies

Postby Particles » Fri Nov 13, 2015 1:44 pm

That's from the western sect the Hare Krishnas, the airport people. It's just another name for enlightenment.

Regarding big tent, I'd like to hear Sayak talk about whether my impression is true that Hindus are very accepting of other beliefs, and in light of the current Hindu nationalism.
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Re: Eastern (Hindu / Buddhist) Philosophies

Postby sayak » Fri Nov 13, 2015 2:42 pm

Og3 wrote:I'm going to suppose, then, that most Hindus select a certain favorite portion of portions from which they draw their faith and practice; that is, that Hinduism is a "Big Tent" kind of religion.

Also, I have heard of a teaching called "Khrshna Consciousness." Would you expound on that point?


Yes.

I do not know much about it. It is an organization focused on ecstatic (almost charismatic, though no speaking in tongue) form of Krishna worship. It was founded in New York in the 1960 s by an Indian who had traveled to US and the peak of the counter-cultural movement. It is not a very old sect, though it has grown influential as it has managed to attract some people in US and later in Europe, as well as people of indian descent in those countries at a time when traditional forms of Indian temple worship was non-existent. Though initially in danger of becoming another of those founder-personality driven religious cults, it has since then (1990 onwards) become a more traditional form of devotional worship within the theistic Vedanta group and hence has become popular and somewhat accepted within India as well. However there is still some criticism on how it often tries to create close sect like communities (with own schools, housing etc.) in countries outside India. ISKON has some way to go before being fully accepted as a valid form of Hinduism by the more mainstream Hindu society in India or Indian communities abroad.
https://books.google.com/books?id=HiD5Enrerv0C&lpg=PP1&pg=PA8#v=onepage&q&f=false
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Re: Eastern (Hindu / Buddhist) Philosophies

Postby sayak » Fri Nov 13, 2015 6:06 pm

Particles wrote:That's from the western sect the Hare Krishnas, the airport people. It's just another name for enlightenment.

Regarding big tent, I'd like to hear Sayak talk about whether my impression is true that Hindus are very accepting of other beliefs, and in light of the current Hindu nationalism.


I discussed a bit of the fundamentalist issue in another thread. http://www.achristianandanatheist.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=4347. Hindu society remains highly hierarchical, dogmatic, exclusivist and sexist and Hinduism has certainly contributed in this. Such attitudes are fertile grounds of fundamentalism. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism has aggravated such reactionary trends significantly.
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Re: Eastern (Hindu / Buddhist) Philosophies

Postby Og3 » Fri Nov 13, 2015 7:02 pm

sayak wrote:
Og3 wrote:I'm going to suppose, then, that most Hindus select a certain favorite portion of portions from which they draw their faith and practice; that is, that Hinduism is a "Big Tent" kind of religion.

Also, I have heard of a teaching called "Khrshna Consciousness." Would you expound on that point?


Yes.

I do not know much about it. It is an organization focused on ecstatic (almost charismatic, though no speaking in tongue) form of Krishna worship. It was founded in New York in the 1960 s by an Indian who had traveled to US and the peak of the counter-cultural movement. It is not a very old sect, though it has grown influential as it has managed to attract some people in US and later in Europe, as well as people of indian descent in those countries at a time when traditional forms of Indian temple worship was non-existent. Though initially in danger of becoming another of those founder-personality driven religious cults, it has since then (1990 onwards) become a more traditional form of devotional worship within the theistic Vedanta group and hence has become popular and somewhat accepted within India as well. However there is still some criticism on how it often tries to create close sect like communities (with own schools, housing etc.) in countries outside India. ISKON has some way to go before being fully accepted as a valid form of Hinduism by the more mainstream Hindu society in India or Indian communities abroad.
https://books.google.com/books?id=HiD5Enrerv0C&lpg=PP1&pg=PA8#v=onepage&q&f=false

My next question will seem a bit odd:

Different religions have different views of other religions. For example, one Christian writer recorded the Pagan Roman view of Christianity as "Something to do with their laws, and some man named Jesus, who died, but whom Paul asserts to be alive." As another example, Judaism in general tends to view Christ as an obscene and distasteful false prophet, although a few minority sects within Judaism will call him a "Rabbi" or teacher, without necessarily endorsing what he taught. And so forth.

So my question is this: How would Christ be viewed in Hindu thought? If one were to ask a well-read Hindu, "Who is Jesus Christ?" what would he say?
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Re: Eastern (Hindu / Buddhist) Philosophies

Postby sayak » Fri Nov 13, 2015 9:00 pm

Jesus would be considered a holy man and a great devotee of God. A sizeable minority will also consider him to be an incarnation of the personal Brahman.
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